When was the last time you saw someone with their heart in a cast, sling, or using crutches? Of course, that’s ridiculous. People with broken hearts don’t wear bandages. And neither do we recognize them or take their pain as seriously as a physical injury.
After a myriad of sports injuries and resulting surgeries I have found that most people are not only sympathetic, but also helpful when they see your arm or leg is mending. But if you are suffering from a broken heart, don’t expect the same response. Yet a “broken heart” can actually be fatal.
Medical researchers at Johns Hopkins University have now identified a medical condition called stress cardiomyopathy, also called “broken heart syndrome.”[i] Without the physiological details let me just say that our physical heart is affected when we experience traumatic stress like an accident, death of a loved one, deep disappointment or similarly stressful event. “Heart attacks are most often brought on by some sort of blockage, whereas stress cardiomyopathy is the actual weakening of the muscle.”[ii] Furthermore, scientists have indicated that prolonged stress lowers our immune system and may cause a host of other problems in addition to cardiomyopathy.
If you are suffering from a broken heart today, my guess is that there is a good chance very few people, if anyone, knows about it. After more than 30 years of ministry I have spoken to many people whose hearts were broken and even those closest to them were totally unaware.
Disappointment, grief, loss, betrayal, and sorrow are all a part of fallen people living in a fallen world. Pain, both emotional and physical, are a sad fact of life. Yet as prevalent as our pain may be, the denial of it is just as common.
We’ve all known people like “Eeyore,” the old, grey, stuffed donkey on Winnie the Pooh who constantly complained. For these people, the glass is always half-empty and there is no way to convince them otherwise. I believe some people actually enjoy the attention and pity they receive and prefer to bemoan their situation than better it. Let me be clear, the broken hearted people of which I speak are going through a valley – not camping in it.
Typically, it is not expected or accepted for us to open up about our pain. For example, when was the last time you greeted someone outside of your family and said, “How are you?” and they replied, “I’m hurting!” and began to tell you a sad story? Of course, it is not appropriate to bare our souls with everyone we meet, but when is opening up about our pain appropriate? Some people find it difficult to open up even among family and friends. I base this on the number of people I have known who opened up to me as their pastor, yet no one else would have known.
I believe there are several reasons for our denial of discouragement:
- Pride – We like to think we have it all together and want others to think we do too
- Lack of Trust – Feeling that there is no one we can trust with our feelings
- Fear – Fear of what people will say or think about us
- Unrealistic idea of “normal” – We mistakenly think “normal” is always being upbeat
A large reason many are living in denial about our pain is because our society does not encourage us to admit our weaknesses. Strength, confidence, beauty, assertiveness, and an endless optimism are supposed to be the “norm.” As a result, any sign of weakness is frowned upon and avoided.
Another factor is our selfishness. We tend to be concerned about ourselves and have little time or patience for others’ problems. When we’re having a “good” day the last thing we want is for someone to spoil it by pouring out his or her souls.
Thankfully, there are many, many caring people who resist selfishness and are eager to encourage others. But unless you know people like this whom you can trust you are likely to keep nurturing the pain alone.
If you are heavy-hearted I would like to offer some encouragement to you.
- You are not alone – Many are simply disguising their discouragement or covering it with a variety of tricks (i.e. jokes, managing the topic of conversation, too busy to talk, and etc.).
- Many people genuinely care – You may not know who they are now, but with prayer, patience, and persistence I believe God will lead you to a friend who you can trust to listen, care, and challenge you to keep going. Find a church home. None are perfect because no one is perfect, but we all need a church family. Talk to your pastor. If you have had symptoms of depression for more than two weeks talk to your doctor.
- Pain is not permanent – Of course, some hurts we will endure as long as we live, but for those who know Christ there is coming a day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
- Jesus knows, cares, and comforts – More than anyone else, the Savior truly cares and is able to comfort you and give you grace to endure. Remember, He is in control and is able to bring good from the deepest grief.
- Trust the truth – Avoid the tendency to give into despondency. Like a pilot in a storm must fly by instruments (IFR) we too, must not rely upon our feelings, but the facts of God’s word.
Some broken hearts will take years to heal. Some will not heal in this life. All may find comfort and hope in Christ.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those
who are crushed in spirit. –Psalm 34:18
After Jesus died on the cross a soldier pierced His side with a spear. We read that blood and water came from the wound. Doctors and scientists have commented on this post-mortem piercing as clear indication that Jesus did not die of asphyxiation as those who were crucified normally did – He died of a broken heart.
Scripture tells us that Jesus willingly died for us. No one took His life from Him. His heart broke under the weight of His burden for us. Isaiah said, “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:6).
Friend, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, knows very well what it is like to have a broken heart. His heart broke for us.
Let’s not grieve Him any longer by our sin. Let’s live to bring joy to His heart until the day we meet Him face to face.
Please use the “Contact Form” and let me know how I may pray for you.
Jesus is Wonderful. You are loved.
[i] Tara Parker-Hope, “Healthy and the Broken Heart,” The New York Times (6-1-10); Johns Hopkins Medicine Press Releases, “‘Broken Heart'” Syndrome: Real, Potentially Deadly, But Recovery Quick” (2-9-05). Christianity Today, www.preachingtoday.com accessed by subscription May 30, 2012.
[ii] Tyler Boone, “A Broken Heart Can Kill,” Internet: http://www.booneheart.com/latest-news/a-broken-heart-can-kill accessed May 31, 2012.